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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Multiplication is For White People: Chapter 1

Once in a while you come across a book and think, "I just HAVE to read that."  When I came across Lessons With Coffee's proposed book club, I jumped right on it!  As I mentioned in my previous post, I am a teacher in downtown Detroit and my student body is a little different than the sunshine and rainbows you see plastered all over back to school advertisements.  The book we're reading is called "Multiplication is for White People" Raising Expectations for Other People's Children by Lisa Delpit.  After reading up on it, it seemed like a book that could easily benefit me in the teaching position I'm in.  One of my biggest complaints about my college experience is the lack of preparation there is for teaching students in urban environments.  It needs to be addressed - but that could be an entirely separate post.  ANYWAY...

The first chapter was an incredibly easy read and is now filled with plenty of my annotations and side notes.  I am big on "talking to your text" with my students, so it only makes sense to practice some of it myself, right?  Plus, it makes referencing back super easy - which I will be doing a lot of here.

There was a portion of the chapter that was filled with quotes (some old and some very recent) and they were all linked with a common theme - that African American's are inferior to others.  One of the most recent quotes, by the former secretary of education, William Bennet, went horrifically like this - "If you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in the country and your crime rate would go down."  Even typing that out made my stomach turn.  I will not be displaying an image of my annotations on that page and I am sure you can imagine why.  

A lot of the chapter discussed how society has set up our young black students to fail and that we as educators are often not hitting the mark where we should be in order for them to succeed.  I am such a liberal you guys and I just want equality in such an imbalanced and disgusting society.  Each year that I teach, I talk with my kids about their future and, I mean it when I say it, I am genuinely concerned about where the road of life will take them.  Doesn't any decent teacher feel that way?  Knowing the odds are stacked against them can keep me awake at night.  I am that type of person.  The fixer.  The one who cares so much that I want to solve all the problems.  Can I?  No, but if more people had that mentality, could we?  I think so.  

For this chapter, we had a scenario posed to us...
Imagine a little black boy, like millions around the country, who goes to the community center after school to shoot hoops. The first time he shoots 20 times and misses 20 times. Still, he comes back every day. The next week he might make a few baskets. After a few months of daily attempts, some days he makes 7 or even 10 out of 20 attempts. Other days he makes only 3. After a year or so, he makes more shots than he misses. Despite week after week of relative failure, he continues to try, until he eventually finds success.
The first thing to think about is why the boy doesn't give up - but why would he?  It's a sport he loves and kids love to get it right.  That is until an outside force says "no you can't!"  Then the road is split - the boy could prove them wrong or he could give up all together.  Too many times we see kids give up because society has taught them that there is no point in trying.  People have created the harsh environment in which people live in - do you think people really wish to be that way?  Think about it.

If we want students who engage in the practice necessary to achieve, if we want students who persist in the face of failure, if we want students who want to come to school, then how do we need to change the way we teach in order to get kids to view school failures the same as basketball failures?
- newmediaandmarketing.com

I don't know who told me this, but I know it came from the time I was in high school, but someone told me that the most important thing you can do is know your audience.  It doesn't matter if they are friends, colleagues, buyers, or anything else - just know your audience.  I know that with the beginning of each school year I question how I can become a better educator for my kids.  How can I get them where they need to be?  What steps do I need to take to make sure that I am doing the absolute best of my ability?  KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!  If you don't start at day one and get to know your kids, all of them, then there is no possible way you can cater to all of their individual needs.  It's just not possible.  Someone will fall at the wayside and that is doing them a disservice.  I talk to my students a lot about my personal live and in turn they love to share any bit and detail about their personal life in return.  We have conversations.  I'm not the boss and I never refer to myself as anything like that (okay maybe we do a class example of branches of government I may have once..).  We are a community of learners together and I am learning from them while they are learning from me.  

Have Fun Teaching (YouTube)

We like to take dance breaks in my classroom and sometimes I like it to have an educational swing to it (don't think we don't GoNoodle a ton, we DO!) and skip counting is always a task for my kids.  In my first year, I found the silliest songs and my kids wanted no part of it.  When we started to use the skip count set from Have Fun Teaching on youtube, skip counting became a lot easier!  It's not a baby song, it has a beat they can move to and it's right in their interest level.  In this case, knowing my audience was the biggest piece of the success puzzle.  I knew what kinds of music my kids liked, what they needed to work on, how long their attention span would hold, and how visual they are.  This will be my third year using these videos and we start from the beginning of the year and go all the way until the end of the year.  They always get better at it and they've never grown sick of it.  They have always jumped and screamed when I put it on - which I don't mind because their excitement is important to me.

In the end it's society that creates the achievement gap and as educators, we have to stop letting that happen.  Can I do it by myself?  I don't know, probably not, but for the sake of optimism on a Saturday night...  However, can we make that change?  Absolutely.  Make what they're learning about what they love or already know and I promise you things will get easier.  It's a constant cycle and I know I have to continue on it, but I will continue to you do it because I have to know my audience.


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